Legacy Of Fela Kuti: Impacts Of Fela Kuti On African Music and African politics


Fela Anikulapo Kuti (15 October 1938 – 2 August 1997), also professionally known as Fela Kuti, or simply Fela, was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, musician, composer, pioneer of the Afrobeat music genre and human rights activist. At the height of his popularity, he was referred to as one of Africa’s most “challenging and charismatic music performers.

Music is an art form and creative activity, whose medium is sound.

Africans are known for having a unique type of music which is a result of the diversity in their culture.

African is the continent with most tribes in the world having more than 3,000 tribes.

How does music look like in Nigeria?

Music in Nigeria can be traced back as far as the 1920s with popular palm-wine music and highlife, which spread in nearby countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Ghana.

There are more 205 tribes in Nigeria with different types of music, this includes many folks and popular music, some of which are known worldwide.

Genres of music in Nigeria is unique to each tribe, each tribe with specific techniques, instruments, and sounds.

Let us take a look at the genres of music of the three major tribes in Nigeria which are Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba.

Yoruba genre of music range from Fuji, juju, nightlife, Igbo genre of music ranges from Igbo highlife, Igbo rap, Odumodu and that of Hausa are rural folk music and urban court music.

There another music genre in Nigeria like Apala, Afrobeat, Afropop, Rap music, Reggae, and so on.

The Hausa people are known for complex percussion of instrument music, the one-stringed goge, and a praise vocal tradition.

Igbo people play various folk instruments. They are known for their ready adoption of foreign styles and it has been widely accepted in Nigeria.

Yoruba is well known for having a drumming tradition, with characteristic use of dundun. Yoruba music is spiritual which they use to worship their God.

The earliest styles of music were palm-wine music and nightlife in the ’80s and ’90s.

Impact of Fela Kuti on Afrobeat

Afrobeat is the largest and the most widely accepted genre of music in Nigeria. Although there has been a lot of controversies about the origin of Afrobeat many people said it started in Nigeria while some said it was in Ghana. But according to Wikipedia, it started in Ghana in 1920.

Afrobeat is the combination of Western African musical styles such as Fuji music and nightlife with American fuck and Jazz influences, with a focus on chanted vocals, complex interesting rhythms, and percussion.

The name Afrobeat was coined in the 1960s by Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti, Fela is responsible for pioneering and popularizing Afrobeat within and outside Nigeria.

Impact of Fela Kuti on Nigeria African Politics.

In 1969, Kuti and his band went on a trip to the U.S. and meet Sandra Smith, a singer, and former Black Panther. Sandra Smith also known as Sandra Isadore introduced Kuti to many writings of activists such as Martin Luther King Jr, Angela Davis, Jesse Jackson, and his biggest influence of all, Malcolm X.

Fela’s meeting with Smith help him to re-evaluate his music and he changed the sounds and message behind his music.

Kuti was a political giant in African from the 1970s until his death. He criticized the corruption of Nigerian government officials and the mistreatment of Nigerian citizens. He talked about slavery as the source of socio-economic and political problems that befell the Africans.

He said corruption is the worst political problems facing African since the 70s. He also said coup and election rigging ultimately worsened poverty, economic inequality, unemployment, and political instability in Nigeria.

In 1984, he criticized the then Military head of state Mahammadu Buhari for being an authoritarian, he referred to him as an Animal in a madman’s body in one of his popular song “Beast of No Nation”

Fela was a candid supporter of human rights, and he used many of his songs to preach against dictatorships in then Militaristic Nigerian Government.

He criticized the well to do Africans for betraying African culture.

Fela Kuti was also an outspoken critic of the United States. At a meeting during his 1981 Amsterdam tour, he “complained about the psychological warfare that American organizations like ITT and the CIA waged against developing nations in terms of language.” Because terms such as Third World, undeveloped, or—even worse—non-aligned countries imply inferiority, Kuti felt they should not be used.

Fela will always be remembered as an influential icon who was brave enough to bravely express his opinions on matters that affected Africans through his music.

Sadly on the 2 of August 1997 at the age of 58, Fela passed away in Lagos State, Nigeria


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